Jess discusses, should I have to justify my disability in order to find somewhere to live?
As someone who has spent nearly the last two years searching for accessible accommodation in Bedford, I was very interested to read Jennifer McShane’s article describing her struggle to find a ground floor premises in London. (https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/trying-to-move-house-with-a-disability)
Jennifer, a young lady from Dublin, keen to accelerate her media career, had been hoping to move to London “for as long as I (she) can remember”. Unlike my search, Jennifer had not sought the advice of an agency such as Branch Properties which specialises in finding, sourcing and providing accessible accommodation. If she had, potentially some of her frustrations may have been avoided.
Phone calls to reluctant letting agents in which she felt compelled to explain her disability, may have been avoided. Comments like, “this one is accessible once you get up to the third floor” make me smile, ironically, having heard many similar ones myself.
I had many problems in my own search for a flat, eventually deciding that it may be easier to look at newer developments. (Vainly hoping that they might adhere to stricter design and building regulations with a nod to greater accessibility, such as step-free, wider doorways and possible space for a lift) I was to be sorely disappointed. The development I visited had several steps to its’ main office and then offered a show flat on the first floor (of course no lift). It was explained to me that the ground floor properties had been designed (and approved by the local council) with joists for lifts but the developers and builders had a greater need to build and sell more quickly than to follow these plans so had fed much of the electric cables through this space, as seems too often be the case, saving money and cutting corners come before constructing, urgently needed, accessible housing.
Continuing with Jennifer’s story, reading that she ‘meekly hung up the phone, took a deep breath, brushed away the frustrated tears in my eyes and decided to change tactics’, makes me feel sad. She should not have to endure this trial.
Her decision from then on was to opt for a roommate as the studios she had been looking at were hugely expensive. Again she was hampered by unhelpful landlords, one who repeated the line, “So you’ll be bringing a frame?” five times in their conversation. Some were just entirely negative and told her that the room has been filled or that suddenly dates didn’t suit. Certainly if Branch Properties hold any sort of power, we might hope they’re at least able to prevent the booking of a flight from Dublin to see a room in London that has suddenly been promised to someone else.
As Jennifer admits, “they’ll insist it’s never about the differently able-ness of it all”. But then she does something we all do and that is to question ourselves “was it unfair of me not to disclose it?”, but she is right in her first thought, why should I (she) have to disclose anything? Why indeed?
Do you have any comments or opinions to discuss with me, please let me know?
If you have experienced challenges looking for an accessible home, please do get in touch with us, we can help! www.branchproperties.co.uk
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